Staff Photo: John Bohn Ernest Alexander is the Daily Post's Wrestler of the Year after winning his second state championship with an undefeated record. Alexander will attend the United States Naval Academy, where he will play football.
For a moment, Ernest Alexander considered a major change in his life.
The Archer wrestler grew up playing football and always imagined he would go on to play it in college.
But as the success continued in wrestling, he thought about switching sports for good.
"Yeah, there was a lot of that," Alexander said. "People would be like 'Why are you going to play football and not wrestling?' I love both sports. Football is what I've grown up doing, wrestling I started in ninth grade."
For a guy that made wrestling his No. 2 sport, Alexander was pretty successful. The Daily Post's Wrestler of the Year finished the season 51-0 and won his second straight state championship. He also guided the fourth-year school to the dual and traditional state championships.
"It's weird to think about it," Alexander said. "I went in thinking, I'm just going to do it for football. I'm a competitor, once I'm in it I want to be the best."
Alexander grew up playing football and didn't know anything about wrestling until he got to high school. His football coach Tom Beuglas, who is also the head wrestling coach, talked him into coming out for wrestling. Instantly, Beuglas saw Alexander had the potential to do something special on the mat.
"Ernest made a commitment to be a state champion, and he became one," Beuglas said. "We provide all of our kids with the resources to become champions, some take advantage of what we offer more than others. Ernest took advantage of what Archer wrestling and Archer football offered him, and because of that he is experiencing the rewards for his hard work.
Ernest could be successful at anything he puts his mind to. We are very proud of him."
Although football was always his primary sport, Alexander made wrestling a priority. He still attended team camps in the summer and participated in freestyle wrestling. As soon as the football season ended, he went straight to the mat.
"He is what Archer Wrestling is all about -- set goals, work hard, make a commitment, make good grades, be a good person and teammate, and always do your best," Beuglas said.
Alexander's final year of wrestling appeared to be in jeopardy in September. He hurt his knee in football and missed part of the season. The injury was never a factor on the mat as he dominated tournament after tournament with an undefeated record and 26 pins.
"I didn't notice I was undefeated," Alexander said. "I just went into every tournament, thinking I'm not going to lose."
It was a continuation of his strong junior year that saw Alexander post a 67-4 record and win the program's first state championship.
"Ernest was our first state champion," Beuglas said. "He made history at Archer. For as long as this school is open, Ernest will be known as our first state champion in wrestling. That is a tremendous honor. We hope our program remains on top for a long time and that we keep adding kids to that group, but he paved the way."
As Alexander became more and more successful in wrestling, he routinely had friends, family members and coaches ask him about pursuing wrestling instead of football.
"I had a lot of coaches contact me about Ernest because he is such a rare combination of strength and quickness," Beuglas said. "Big kids with his athletic ability are hard for wrestling coaches to get because most are also great football players and choose to play football in college."
That's the case with Alexander. College football programs offer more scholarship opportunities than wrestling, so Alexander signed with the Naval Academy to play running back next season. Navy offers one of the top educations in the country and Alexander, who maintains a 3.4 GPA and scored 1,350 on the SAT, plans to major in mechanical engineering.
"I think Ernest will be successful in whatever he chooses to do, not only because of his athletic ability, but because he has great character and is a good person," Beuglas said. "There are some people that you can talk to and you are impressed with them and the way they carry themselves, you know they will be successful, that is Ernest. He is a winner."